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October 25, 2017
Ven. Bambalapitiye Gnanaloka Thera to conduct
Dhamma sessions in the UK
by Sujeeva Nivunhella in London

Ven. Bambalapitiye Gnanaloka Thera, who is currently conducting meditation retreats and Dhamma talks in Europe, will arrive in London on October 27 to conduct Dhamma sessions for a month in the UK.

The prelate who did meditation mainly in the Himalayas and in Mount Kailash in Tibet in his monkhood, entered public life in 2012 and embarked on conducting Dhamma programs to devotees. In April this year, he undertook the first overseas Dhamma mission to Australia, which was very successful.

Ven. Gnanaloka Thera accepted an invitation from Lakshman Gallage in London and Thusitha Rajapaksa in Paris to visit Europe. He will conduct Dhamma sessions in France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy before coming to London. After his visit to the UK, he will fly to the USA and Canada Dhamma to conduct more sessions.

The thera's Dhamma programs will be conducted in the UK from October 28 to November 12 at the London Buddhist Vihara in London, Jethavana Vihara in Birmingham, Thames Vihara in Selsdon, Shanthi Vihara in Nottingham, Sri Sambodhi Meditation Centre in London, Athula Dassan Temple in Hanworth, Sri Sambuddha Vihara in Liverpool, Imperial Hotel in Stroud, Vale Multicultural Centre in Aylesbury and Weston Coyney Village Hall in Stoke on Trent.

Ven. Gñanaloka Thera is a highly venerated senior Sri Lankan Buddhist monk of the Theravada tradition. He is respected for his strict adherence to the Vinaya, deep commitment to meditation and for ascetic practices, similar to those of the ancient disciples of the Buddha. He has a special interest for solitude and simple living, and spends long periods every year in the rugged mountains of the Himalayas, Nepal and India as well as in the deep uninhabited forests of Sri Lanka.

He ardently engages in continuous meditation practice as performed in the ancient times. His teachings are direct and practical and reflects the teachings of the Buddha in a simple manner. His Dhamma talks are suffused with loving-kindness and compassion, and include interesting anecdotes from his experiences as a monk as well as from his early life. Rather than an intellectual abstraction of the teachings, he tends to focus on practical applications of the Dhamma for developing wisdom and compassion in daily life.

He was born in Sri Lanka in 1971 to a family of devout Buddhists. At the age of 14, he accompanied his parents to South Africa and spent the adolescent years with his family in Lesotho. As a teenager, he was interested in cricket, loved to go for walks in the natural wilderness and had an inquiring mind about the causes for world phenomena.

At the age of 18, through reflections on phenomena on his own, he experienced certain insights. Ven. Gñanaloka explains how during his long and solitary walks, he came to understanding the realities of life.

At the age of 23, he returned to Sri Lanka from Nicosia in Cyprus, where he was attending university. His return to his motherland marked a significant milestone in his life. He began an intensive search into the various aspects, studying in depth the texts of the key religions, such as the Bible, the Holy Quran, the Bhagawat Gita, to name a few. His quest for understanding the nature of the universe, a deep interest in astrophysics and an inner calling to discover the expansiveness of the mind, all flowered during this important period of his life.

With his gradual turn towards the Buddha's teachings, he discovered that Compassion (karuna) and Loving-kindness (metta), as explained by the Buddha, were also part of the core teachings of other religions.

An introduction to a saintly, mendicant German monk, Venerable Navimala was the cornerstone and turning point in his life. Greatly influenced by the ardency and ascetic practices of Ven. Navimala, he spent many years practicing meditation and the Dhamma teachings with his mentor (Venerable ?navimala) in the island hermitage, Polgasduwa, in southern Sri Lanka. In 1999 he became a novice monk thus entering monkhood at the age of 28 and was ordained as a Bhikkhu in 2001 in Sri Lanka.

When he was in his early 20s, even before he became a monk, he traveled to the Himalayas, as well as to the Holy towns of Rishikesh and Badrinath in northern India. After joining the Theravada monastic Order, he continued to visit Badrinath and Ladakh and strove in ardent meditation practice in the rugged mountains and ancient caves of the Himalayas.

Since 2009, Ven. Gñanaloka Thera has been regularly visiting Mount Kailash and Lake Mansoravar in Tibet to engage in serious ascetic meditation practice. During those journeys, he recounts two near-death experiences. He has also been a wanderer, journeying on foot in the deep forests across Sri Lanka. His constant companion has always been the ancient practices taught by the Buddha.
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